Updated 11 May, 2021
Never take insurance, always split with a pair of eights, double if you’ve got 11.
Those are three aspects of a basic Blackjack strategy that should, in the long run, give you a better chance of turning a profit. Unlike Poker, where strategy plays a large part of the game, Blackjack is a little less straightforward. In this article, we take a look at some different ways to play the game to see if there’s a way to formulate a winning Blackjack strategy.
Do Blackjack strategies work?
Casinos make money because they have an edge over the player. This means that in the long run, they'll earn more from players than they'll lose. The objective of any strategy is to lower the house edge so that while you're playing, you have a better chance of winning.
How is this possible? Casinos work in part by assuming that the player has little to no prior knowledge of how the game works. And that you're not clued up on probability theory.
If those last two words have you worried, don't panic. You don't need to be a mathematical savant to turn the odds in your favour. The important thing to remember is that it's possible. Just don't expect to win every hand, even by using a strategy.
How does Blackjack strategy impact the house edge?
In Blackjack, the advantage the casino has over a player is around 0.8%, but this varies depending on the number of decks used in the game. If you're playing a single deck game of Blackjack, the house edge could be as low as 0.18%. However, if it's a single deck game but pays out at 6:5 and the dealer hits on soft 17, you won't have as much of an advantage as you might think.
In fact, one of the first ways you can begin to use a strategy for Blackjack is to understand how the rule variations affect your chances. And you can start before you even place a bet. Printed on the table will be a statement about whether or not the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17 (meaning a 17 that includes an Ace). This is important for strategy purposes as, if the dealer hits on 17 the house has an extra 0.2% edge.
However, it remains true that Blackjack has one of the lowest house edges of any table game in a casino. Anything you can do to influence that edge into your favour increases the chances of making a positive return. Remember that following the optimum strategy won’t guarantee a win every time, but it can help to make it less likely you’ll lose.
How do payouts work in Blackjack?
Winnings are paid out at evens, so you get your stake returned plus an amount equal to your stake. That is, unless you get Blackjack, which is a total of 21 in two cards. The amount you win in this case depends on the casino, but is mostly 3:2, your stake plus 1.5x your stake. However some casinos payout 6:5 on Blackjack.
Does basic strategy work?
Much has been made about basic Blackjack strategy. There are two schools of thought: one is that learning basic strategy is a vital weapon in the gambler’s armoury, the other is that the only real way to reduce a casino’s edge is to count cards.
It’s difficult to know for certain how much a basic strategy will help players in the long run because of the random nature of the game. The only way we can measure the variation in card distribution is with Monte Carlo simulations. And even those give such a long term view, that they can’t really say for certain how successful a strategy will be.
However, Bankroll management is certainly the best way for average Blackjack players to stay in the game. It's exciting to go all in but more often than not, you'll end up losing it all. Using this basic strategy you can expect to lower the house edge to around 0.5% in an eight deck game, though casual players may not notice the difference.
A knowledge of basic strategy is most useful when looking to split or double. As we know that bets are paid back as evens unless you have Blackjack (roughly once every 21 hands), your chances of making a profit over and above your losses are from splitting and doubling your bet.
What is the best Blackjack strategy chart?
S = Stand
H = Hit
DH = Double if allowed. If not, Hit
DS = Double if allowed. If not, Stand
SP = Split
SU = Surrender. If not allowed, hit.
Making your blackjack bets
When should you double down or split?
When you’re given the option to double, you’re only allowed to hit one more time. So it only makes sense to double under certain conditions, go back and read the table above for the most effective times to do this. The same conditions are true for splitting. When you choose to split, you separate both cards in your hand and get two more cards. You effectively play with two hands.
Double down restrictions
A good way to tell if a certain strategy reduces a house edge is to see if a certain action is banned. Like not being able to double down on ten or eleven. Not all tables are the same so it's worth checking to see if you're allowed to double on these totals. If you can't, the house enjoys an extra 0.2% edge.
Should you take the insurance bet in Blackjack?
If the dealer’s up-facing card is an ace, you’ll generally be offered insurance. This is a side bet made in addition to original bet. With the insurance bet, you win only if the dealer has blackjack. In most casinos, you can only stake up to half your original bet on insurance as it pays out at 2:1. The best you can hope for with an insurance bet is to cover your losses.
If you’re dealt a Blackjack hand, you can still take insurance. You’ll get paid out at evens. More often than not however, it doesn’t pay to take the insurance.
What are the side bets in Blackjack?
On top of Insurance, there are a number of side bets that may be available on your table. These are the most popular:
- Lucky Lucky - Player hand and dealer's up card sum to 19, 20, or 21
- Perfect Pairs - Player initial hand is a pair
- Royal Match - Player initial hand is suited, suited and connected, or a suited K-Q
- 21+3 - Player initial hand plus dealer's card makes a flush, straight, or three-of-a-kind poker hand
- Lucky Ladies - Player initial hand totals 20
- In Bet - Dealer upcard is in between the value of the players two cards
- Bust It! - First card drawn to the dealer will result in a dealer bust
- Match the Dealer - One or both of the players cards is the same as the dealer’s card
All these bets must be placed before the cards are dealt. In the long run, casinos expect to make money from these bets. So in terms of a winning strategy, they’re not really suitable.
Answering your blackjack questions
Is card counting worth it?
The notable Blackjack writer, Henry Tamburin Ph.D, claims that this is the only surefire way to put the advantage toward the player. And of course, with the amount of media coverage on card counters, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to win in casinos. But is it sustainable? That’s less clear. Casinos look for betting patterns that gives away card counters, they make it as difficult as possible to keep track of the cards. And it’s only really possible to count cards when you’re physically in a casino. When you’re playing online it’s impossible.
Which strategy is best to win at Blackjack?
There’s no silver bullet to improve your chances at winning Blackjack. Even basic strategy won’t lead to instant mountains of cash. However a combination of knowing the probabilities of winning each hand, staking sensible amounts compared to your bankroll. Cloudbet has a variety of free play Blackjack games that are perfect for practicing your strategy. Then once you’re ready to hit the table and win real money, you can instantly take a seat in our live casino.
Why is blackjack called blackjack?
When Blackjack first came to the US hundreds of years ago, many casinos decided to add some extra excitement to the game by offering 10-1 bonuses on winning hands including either the ace of spades, a jack of spades or a jack of clubs, or, in other words, a black jack.
Whilst the aim of the game is to get to 21, winning with the bonus bet became hugely popular amongst fans of the card game - who then proceeded to refer to the entire game as ‘blackjack’. And even though casinos have since stopped issuing the bonus (although some now offer it in the form of a side bet), the name appears to have stuck. So for those of you wondering where the name Blackjack actually came from, wonder no more!
What are the rules of blackjack?
Blackjack is probably one of the simplest casino games out there, rules-wise, as the only aim of the game is to get to 21. For more on the basics of the game, be sure to check out our guide to playing blackjack, but we recommend you play for yourself to get a real understanding.
Why is online blackjack popular?
The first reason is because of the convenience of an online casino, and the ease with which you can play. All you have to do is log in to your chosen site to find Blackjack games of all types and varieties, from the classics to the games with slightly more modern twists.
Play is instant online, and that’s a huge plus, letting you switch between tables as often as you like, with no fear of queues or waiting around. That’s true for when you start playing at the table too; the dealers act swiftly and payouts are fast - making online Blackjack the ideal game for casino players across the world.
Can you beat the casino at blackjack?
Although there is a lot of talk around Blackjack strategies, it’s important to remember that luck plays a huge part in the outcome of your bets. And whilst that means you can lose, it also means that it’s very possible for you to win too.
In fact, over the last month, one player in our Live Casino managed to bag themselves a healthy 12 BTC when sat at the Blackjack table. Not bad hey? Why don’t you test out the games for yourself by signing up to Cloudbet today. Who knows, we might be adding you to our list of big casino winners soon.